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O-Zone: Time to breathe

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Atlanta, GA:
They score touchdowns and Bortles looked good, but I'm still disappointed in how the team has looked so far this game. No pass rush, still. Luke Joeckel not holding up well against a backup. More dropped passes. Not much push from the offensive line in the run game.
John: This was one of the first emails Friday night, but it's as good a place to start as any. That's because it understandably sort of summed up the inbox. People were giddy about Blake Bortles and not-so-giddy about everything else. That's understandable and probably pretty accurate. Not everything was great for the Jaguars Friday against the Lions. Bortles was good; other areas looked shaky at times and OK at other times. That's how the NFL is a lot of the time, particularly for a young team that is still VERY much in the developing stages. Even for a team not in the developing stages, everything usually isn't great at the same time in the NFL. Teams that win Super Bowls and make the playoffs have areas that aren't perfect and that worry fans. It's professional football in the salary cap era, so teams – all teams – have flaws. The Jaguars have a lot of areas that need work. There's no question about that. They're not a roster of All-Pros yet. They're a young, developing roster that looks a lot better right now than it did at the end of last season. I don't think they look like a playoff team yet, but I didn't expect them to look like a playoff team this season. What looks a lot better than last season are Blake Bortles and the offensive line, and if there were two areas that needed to look better this preseason, those were it. It's better. It's not perfect and it's not close to perfect, but it's better. That's a start.
Douglas from Section 132:
Two touchdowns, a field goal, and what would have been another field goal in regular season for four drives from first-team offense, I'll take it!
John: Yeah – I think generally speaking the Jaguars' first-team offense will take it, too. The first-team offense has scored on eight of 11 first-half possessions in the preseason, and the unit was able to score touchdowns in the red zone on Friday against the Lions. Head Coach Gus Bradley was quick to note after the game Friday that the offense wasn't yet facing game-planning from defenses, and the regular season undoubtedly is different than the preseason. But the offensive line is protecting and Blake Bortles is playing well. Those two things give this offense a decidedly different feel than last season.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Well hot damn Bortles. The tongue is the mark of champions :)
John: He looks good. Really good. Three preseason games doesn't put him in elite status, but he's so far beyond where I expected him to be right now it's hard to explain.
Chris from Delray Beach, FL:
As Blake goes, so go the Jaguars. It has never been more apparent than Friday. That first half showed us dropped passes, spotty left tackle play, poor tackling and few running lanes ... however, because Blake was playing at such a high level we actually had a lead at the half against a playoff team from last year. It is actually encouraging to think what this team could do if the other players played up to Blake's level.
John: Bortles played well. I wouldn't necessarily rate all those other areas qui-i-i-i-te so poorly as you do, though – especially the "dropped passes" part. There were a couple on Friday, but you're going to have a few drops in the NFL. Watch other games closely and you'll see drops. And all parts of games don't go perfectly. At least not very often. That's not to say you accept imperfect play, but you don't necessarily leap from ledges because of it, either. The difference in games quite often is quarterback play, and while it's just preseason, Bortles has shown in preseason why the quarterback can make such a difference. A big play here or there … a converted third down where once there was a sack or an incompletion … those are the situations on which games turn.
Sam from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I love the decisions Blake is making out there. It might be preseason but it's really hard not to be excited.
John: Yeah, it is.
Jerell Live from EverBank:
Offense looks great defense is going to suck.
John: Jerell's game traveled well.
Rob from Bean:
I am liking what I see from Bortles and the offense, but the defense has me very worried. Bad tackling, no pressure on the quarterback and in the second quarter the Lions made the defense look very bad. Please tell me there is hope!
John: Of course there's hope, because the regular season is different from the preseason. Teams game plan differently and the intensity is different. Teams also try things in the preseason they might not try in the regular season. That's the reason I'm not yet predicting the Jaguars to score 30 points a game offensively just because they've looked good offensively in the preseason. It's also the reason I'm not ready to write the defense off as a disaster. Head Coach Gus Bradley, for instance, said the defense was trying a new pressure on the play when Matt Stafford hit Golden Tate for a 62-yard touchdown Friday – and he also said that the preseason was the time to experiment with such things. That's not to say this defense has looked great; it hasn't. But the dynamics can change quite a bit once the regular season begins.
John from JAX to ATL:
Now, I expect good games/plays/stats from the Jags, and I get surprised when I see bad. Last year it was vice versa. I like this better.
John: So far, so good.
Holger from London, England:
If you could pick only one of the two, would you rather take a 8-8 season or a win in the last 4 games (with a 6-10 record)
John: I suppose I'd take 8-8. In theory that would mean they probably played well enough to win through a lot of the phases of the season. No 10-6 option?
Clayton from Gambier, OH:
If the Jags' running game gets going … watch out.
John: I wouldn't fret too, too much over the running game yet. That area wasn't great Friday, but the line showed enough in the first two preseason games to make you think it will be OK. Remember, run-blocking often is behind pass-blocking at the beginning of the season because of the continuity needed in that area. Run-blocking also is often something that improves later in games, making it difficult to be overly effective in the area in preseason when the first team never plays an entire game. There have been early signs of productive running, and I'd be a little surprised at this stage if those signs don't lead to a pretty decent season running the ball.
Matt from Austin, TX:
I know it's only preseason, but man Bortles looks like a franchise quarterback. It's been too long since Jacksonville has been able to say that. LT is the position in question now.
John: I've gotten a lot more emails in the O-Zone about Joeckel than I expected. I saw a couple of plays where he struggled and also didn't see him allow a sack. I saw him allow a pressure on one play and I saw him apparently stumble on another. That's going to happen now and again. At first glance, it felt like one of those games where Joeckel played OK with one or two bad plays emphasized. I'll have to take another look at to see if it was something else.
Miguel from Section 145 and Duuuuval:
Are we keeping all the tight ends?! They all look good! Is that because of Coach Olson's tight-end friendly system or are they all that good?
John: Olson's system does seem to be tight end friendly, and the area has been productive in the preseason. It was a solid position last season that became very deep with the addition of Julius Thomas in the offseason. When Thomas returns for the regular season, that group gets very, very interesting.
Rob from Janesville:
I sure hope that is not what we should be expecting from Yeldon this year. That was terrible! What a waste of a second rounder!
John: Breathe, Rob, breathe. Yeldon may have missed a hole here and there, but it wasn't as if there was much room to run on a lot of those plays. And before you write him off as a "waste" after one half of a preseason game, think back to 1998 when a certain running back was ineffective enough in the preseason and early in the season that my editors at the Times-Union were asking me to write stories on the player being a bust. As it turned out that guy was OK; it turned out that player was Fred Taylor.

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